For some of us, coffee is a morning ritual, a must-have first thing, dependence to get the day going. Perhaps it is thought more of as a chemical means to quickly inject caffeine to jump start the morning. But in reality, it is a food, a crop grown on a tree, and one of the most in-demand commodities worldwide.
On a recent trip to Puerto Rico, we journeyed a couple of hours into the central mountain range, ending a winding and scenic drive on the Panoramic Route to Hacienda Pomarrosa (The Golden Roseapple Farm).
The operation sits at 1000 meters above sea level near the tallest mountain on the island, Cerro Punta, at 1338 meters. The tour costs $20 per person and includes homemade pastry and of course coffee. It started at 11 a.m. and went past 1 p.m.
The tour begins with proprietor Kurt, a native of Germany, discussing the history of coffee and intertwining his own story and love of coffee. After the 30 minute introduction, Kurt's son, Sebastian, takes over by leading the group on a tour of the farm and processing facility.
Here you learn that beverage giant Coca~Cola owns a strong majority of the island's coffee operations and labels, but Café Pomarrosa is privately owned and operates from tree to packaging while offering modest shipping charges to order their product.
Because of the soil, Kurt grows mostly arabica beans (often referred to as cherries). The cherries are harvested by hand from September to December, and only the ripest, reddest cherries are plucked. Laborers make a minimum of $7 per hour, which is extremely high compared to other countries that grow coffee. This is one of the reasons an 8-ounce bag of their roasted beans costs $18 to $20.
Café Pomarrosa also takes pride in quality. All of their beans are processed on the farm in small batches. Their newer technology uses little water and is therefore environmentally friendly. The coffee does rest in a water bath for 8 hours after peeling and is then sent to the drier in a silo. Sun drying is not possible in the mountains because of humidity and daily showers than can degrade the quality. After 24 hours the beans are sent to the warehouse for storage until they are ready for roasting followed by immediate packaging and shipping.
Because of the weather, Pomarrosa is expecting a short harvest this coming year, which makes it difficult to keep up with the high demand for their product.
At the conclusion of the tour, Sebastian grinds and brews cappuccino for each of the visitors and offers more opportunity to ask questions. We purchased a couple bags of coffee to bring home and try on our own.
At the plantation they are challenged with a variety of external and weather-related hurdles. They have branched out into the agritourism experience for people like us who want to know the source and story behind the coffee we enjoy. They have added a bed-and-breakfast option and are building a gift shop for those who are interested in learning more and taking home some products. The real gem however is experiencing the tour! Diversification is survival however!
My husband and I would recommend this experience! Oh and the banana bread is made from bananas grown on the plantation... yes, it is that good!